Former FPD chief takes high road, endorses Potvin for his job

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Phil Weymouth took the high road when a TV news reporter showed up at his home last week to ask him to explain why he resigned as Fryeburg’s Police Chief. He’d been unreachable by reporters via phone for 11 days, when Town Manager Sharon Jackson placed him on paid administrative leave.

“After 31 years with law enforcement, I’m ready to retire,” Weymouth told WGME-13 reporter Lexie O’Connor on April 30. He didn’t offer any comment on why he was suspended, saying only that he was placed on administrative leave April 17 and then resigned April 28 as part of his plans for retirement.

Instead of the past, he focused on the future.

Weymouth said Fryeburg Police Detective Sergeant Joshua Potvin should be the new permanent police chief. Jackson appointed Potvin as Acting Chief the same day she put Weymouth on leave. She has decided to do “a complete search” for a new police chief by advertising over the next month in several publications. The applications will be reviewed and narrowed down by Jackson with the help of one selectman and Finance Director Sharon Gendreau, who oversees human resources.

Selectmen were expected to meet tonight, May 8, to choose which of them will assist Jackson in the search. Jackson emphasized that she will be the one to make the final decision. “All employees are hired by the town manager,” she said.

Weymouth, who had 25 years in law enforcement when he became Fryeburg’s chief six years ago, endorsed Potvin to succeed him in the town’s official announcement of his resignation.

“(Potvin) has proven himself as a leader under my command, and I am fully confident in his ability to effectively manage a police agency through modern and progressive techniques,” Weymouth stated.

Potvin, a former 12-year Cumberland County Sheriff’s Deputy and Sergeant, came to Fryeburg in January 2013, after working in Afghanistan for the U.S. State Department to provide diplomatic security and train bomb-sniffing dogs. He wished Weymouth well in his retirement.

“I know the chief stated that he will be enjoying fishing and spending time camping with his family as he prepares for retirement and wishes us all the best. Chief Weymouth and I have had a great working relationship, and he will be missed,” Potvin wrote.

At a budget committee meeting held the day before his suspension, Weymouth reportedly said that the raises proposed for police officers and the chief brought his salary to the level of a minimum wage for a police chief. Jackson said Friday that Weymouth was paid $54,100 a year, an amount she said is on the low end of the average for police chiefs in Maine.

According to Fryeburg Selectman Rick Eastman, Weymouth’s behavior at the budget meeting reportedly was “rude” and somewhat “aggressive,” and was not typical for him.

Weymouth’s judgment as chief was called into question in the fall of 2012, when it was learned that he allowed people at a party, including two police officers, to drink the beer that had been seized from intoxicated canoeists on the Saco River. An anonymous allegation was made that the officers were in uniform at the party, and that underage teens were allowed to drink in their presence.

The town ordered an official investigation into the allegations and put Weymouth and the two officers on paid suspension, which ended when the investigation found no evidence of official misconduct. Selectmen then established an official protocol for the handling and disposal of all liquor seized by police.

The incident sparked some residents, a year later, to petition for a town-wide vote to disband the police department and contract with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department instead. The vote failed, however, with 393 yes votes and 513 no votes.

This past winter, Jackson criticized Weymouth for not consulting selectmen before he met with the rescue chief to plan a new public safely complex. She reportedly said both chiefs were “going higher than their heads.” Weymouth denied that he was trying to circumvent the board’s authority.

 

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